We must all follow the guidance of health professionals and take the necessary steps to protect our communities and our nation.
Nancy Pelosi just negotiated a deal with the administration to provide critical relief for our country during this pandemic. It will ensure that coronavirus testing is free for everyone, including the uninsured, and provide paid sick leave and food assistance for families that are hurting. These are critical steps to help those most impacted by the virus, and our nation is better off because of her leadership.
Unfortunately, this virus has laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current administration. Public fears are being compounded by a pervasive lack of trust in this President, fueled by his adversarial relationship with the truth.
Our government’s ability to respond effectively has been undermined by the hollowing-out of our agencies and the disparagement of science. Our ability to drive a global response is dramatically undercut by the damage President Donald Trump has done to our credibility and our relationships around the world. And just yesterday, Trump flatly refused to take responsibility for the failure of testing to date. When asked a legitimate public health question, he said, “Yeah, no, I don’t take responsibility at all.” It is the job of the President to take responsibility — and his response is unacceptable.
We have to get to work immediately to dig ourselves out of this hole.
That is why on Thursday of last week I released my plan to combat and overcome the coronavirus. It lays out immediate steps we must take to deliver a decisive public health response to curb the spread of this disease and provide treatment to those in need; and a decisive economic response that would deliver real relief to American workers, families, and small businesses — and protects the economy as a whole. The steps in the House bill are important, but we will certainly need to do more.
The core principle is simple: public health professionals must be the ones making our public health decisions and communicating with the American people.
First, anyone who needs to be tested based on medical guidelines should be tested — at no charge. The White House should measure and report each day how many tests were ordered, how many tests have been completed, and how many have tested positive. By next week, the number of tests should be in the millions, not the thousands. We should make sure every person in a nursing home, a senior center, or a vulnerable population has easy access to a test.
Second, we need to surge our capability to both prevent and treat the coronavirus, and prepare our hospitals to deal with an influx of those needing care. Communities must have the hospital beds, the staff, the medical supplies, and the personal protective equipment necessary to treat patients.
A week from now, a month from now, we could need an instant, 500-bed hospital to isolate and treat patients in any city in the country. President Trump should ensure FEMA is working with local authorities so that we are ready to do that.
The Department of Defense should prepare for the potential deployment of its resources to provide medical facility capacity and logistical support.
Third, we need to accelerate the development of treatments and a vaccine. In 2016, the Obama-Biden Administration passed the Cures Act to accelerate work at the National Institutes of Health, but now it must have every available resource to speed the process along.
President Trump should fast-track clinical trials within the NIH, while closely coordinating with the Food and Drug Administration on trial approvals, so that the science is not hindered by the bureaucracy.
He should also immediately restore the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense — with a full-time, dedicated coordinator to oversee the response. The Obama-Biden Administration created that office to better respond to future global health threats after the Ebola crisis in 2014. It was designed for exactly this scenario. President Trump’s administration eliminated the office two years ago.
We must also face the second half of the challenge — the economic pain the coronavirus will cause in our country. We must do whatever it takes and spend whatever it takes to deliver relief for our families and ensure the stability of our economy. This crisis will hit everyone, but it will hit folks who live paycheck-to-paycheck the hardest, including working people and seniors.
Another tax cut to Google or Goldman Sachs or millionaires won’t get the job done. We need to place our focus on those who will struggle just to get by: children who rely on school lunches, parents who are struggling with childcare costs, workers in the gig economy who lack unemployment insurance, people who have difficulty paying their rent or mortgage because they’ve been laid off or had their hours cut, and small businesses that will be devastated as customers stay home and events are canceled. We need to give them relief. And it is a national disgrace that millions of our fellow citizens do not have a single day of paid sick leave.
We will never fully solve this problem if we are unwilling to look beyond our own borders and engage fully with the world. A disease that starts any place on the planet can be on a plane to any city on earth a few hours later. We should be leading a coordinated, global response, just as we did for Ebola, assisting vulnerable nations in detecting and treating coronavirus wherever it is spreading.
By cutting our investments in global health, this Administration has left us woefully ill-prepared for the exact crisis we now face.
No President can promise to prevent future outbreaks. But I can promise you that when I’m President, we will prepare better, respond better, and recover better. We will lead with science, listen to experts, and heed their advice. We will rebuild American leadership and rally the world to meet global threats. And I will always, always tell the truth. That is the responsibility of a President.
Now, and in the difficult days that still lie ahead, I know that this country will summon our spirit of empathy, decency, and unity. Because, in times of crisis, Americans stand as one. I know we will meet this challenge — together.